Report: OKC Thunder intended for Josh Giddey to come off bench but he preferred to be traded

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Giddey did not want to come off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and general manager Sam Presti said that played a big role in the team trading the 21-year-old to the Chicago Bulls for Alex Caruso.

“When we drafted Josh in 2021 he was an essential aspect of our vision for the next iteration of the Thunder,” the statement from Presti read. “Since then, our team has evolved rapidly and dynamically in ways we could never have anticipated. Therefore, as we began our internal discussions this off-season, it was determined that bringing Josh off the bench next season was our best option to maximize his many talents and deploy our team more efficiently over 48 minutes.

“As we laid out to Josh how he could lean into his strengths and ultimately optimize our current roster and talent, it was hard for him to envision, and conversations turned to him inquiring about potential opportunities elsewhere. As always was the case, Josh demonstrated the utmost professionalism throughout the discussions. Josh has All-Star potential, but accessing that in the current construct of the Thunder would not be optimal for the collective. Based on these discussions we decided to move forward and prioritize what was best for the organization.”

In one of the first big player moves of this offseason, the Thunder are adding 30-year-old Caruso to a young team that earned the top seed in the Western Conference last season. He is considered among the top role players in the league and is a two-time All-Defensive team selection.

However, the Thunder are moving on from a great deal of potential in Giddey in the straight-up trade, with the Australian considered by some to be a possible future All-Star. He does come with some baggage, though, as during last season, he was involved in allegations that he had an intimate relationship with an underage girl. The NBA reportedly closed its investigation into the matter last month, and in addition, police in California earlier announced that its probe was unable to corroborate any criminal activity.

After the allegations surfaced, some NBA front offices labeled Giddey as a possible trade candidate. Now, a trade has come to fruition.

The Thunder remain stocked with young talent, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren among those who helped them to a 57-25 record this past regular season that was equal to the record of the defending champion Denver Nuggets.

Oklahoma City earned the top seed in the conference via a tiebreaker. After sweeping the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, the Thunder were eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in six games in the second round, with their youth and playoff inexperience perhaps having an effect on the disappointing outcome.

Caruso reportedly was a popular target of other teams, including his former team the Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Miami Heat, and a report during the 2023-24 NBA season said the Bulls were looking for multiple first-round picks if they were to deal him. They instead settled on Giddey, who was a first-round selection (No. 6 overall) in the 2021 NBA Draft.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.